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Jon Stewart blasts Congress' failure to fund 9/11 victim program

Stewart: "It's ironic. First responders pride themselves on response time. Yet every time they have a need, our response is inadequate, slow and apathetic."

Comedian Jon Stewart went to Capitol Hill on Monday to demand Congress provide additional funding for survivors and first responders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Congress needs to do this urgently and cleanly, and not use these men and women as a bargaining chip,” the former "The Daily Show" host told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.

“They’re not pawns. They’re not people to be played with.”

This isn’t Stewart’s first time demanding action to help the first responders and victims of 9/11. In 2015, he walked the halls of Congress to secure passage of a new law that would aid the men and women in uniform sickened as a result of the 2001 attacks.

Congress relaunched the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund with $7.375 billion to cover claims through December 2020. But $5 billion has already been given to more than 20,000 survivors with cancer and respiratory diseases.

Stewart was back on the Hill Monday urging lawmakers to pass permanent funding since the fund is set to expire in 2020 and the special master who runs the program recently announced plans to cut pay-outs.

“It’s ironic. First responders pride themselves on response time. It’s the thing that they work on day in and day out, so that the people and the communities that they serve are well served,” Stewart said. “Yet each and every time when they have a need, our response is inadequate, slow and apathetic.”

John Feal, a first responder, joined Stewart to plead with lawmakers to pass the bill to save the fund on Monday.

The legislation, known as the Never Forget the Heroes act, is set to be introduced on Monday by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y, and will permanently fund VCF if passed.

Feal, who said he went to 181 funerals of responders who died following the attacks, told NBC News on Monday that he “paid for nine of them because they couldn’t afford to bury their loved ones.”

“We’re sick and dying but we’re not stupid.”